Getting Dental Impressions? Here's What to Expect

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Whenever your dentist introduces your teeth to a foreign object, dental impressions are taken to ensure the new crown or bridge will align with your current bite. These impressions create an exact mold of your mouth so your repair feels natural and doesn't irritate the sensitive soft tissue lining the inside of your cheeks and gums.

Impressions are a common preliminary step for the development of numerous dental and orthodontic appliances. Rest assured they're done with minimal discomfort and only serve to ensure a perfect result when receiving the product that follows. Here's what to expect during this brief process.

Why Dental Impressions?

Impressions are one of the primary steps to having a crown or bridge placed after incurring cracked or broken teeth. In most cases, it's to fix a singular tooth: Dentistry Today notes that 85 percent of repair units are single crowns rather than full bridges. The good news is a single crown means less dental work in the long run.

When a dental impression is taken, the dentist can then create a permanent crown or bridge that fits perfectly over your existing tooth structure, despite all of its natural bumps and grooves. No two sets of teeth are exactly alike, so it's the best way to realize a comfortable, personal result.

Making a Good Impression

When making an impression, the dentist usually files the top and sides of the affected tooth to ensure a good fit. Keep in mind this filing can cause some discomfort, particularly if the tooth needs to be filled before it can accept a crown (due to a cavity). Even if you've cracked your tooth, it's not too small to support a crown so that the remaining tooth is sufficiently protected.

Once the tooth is ready, an alginate impression is taken of the area that needs the crown, then removed when it has hardened and a thorough impression of your mouth is made. This impression becomes the ideal shape into which the final crown material (usually metal or porcelain) will be poured, creating an exact fit for the tooth (or teeth) in need. The actual dental impressions should be quick and painless, as your dentist is simply placing this impression material over the tooth and then removing it. The impression stage of the procedure only lasts a few minutes.

Minor Discomfort

The only two issues you may find uncomfortable while getting a dental impression are the taste of the alginate material and if you have a gag reflex – the latter depends on your personal level of sensitivity. The impression material does not have flavor added, but its natural flavor only lasts while the impression is being taken. Feel free to ask your dentist for a sip of water or a swish of an antibacterial mouthwash like Colgate Total® Advanced Pro-Shield Mouthwash, to help get rid of the taste once the impression has been taken.

If you find that having the impression material in your mouth or having the dentist work on your back teeth is triggering your gag reflex, try breathing through your nose or asking the dentist if you can sit up during the procedure (reclining can put your throat in an awkward position). This can help you feel more comfortable for the time it takes to have the impression completed.

Once your impression is done, your dentist may deem it necessary to install a temporary crown or bridge until the permanent one has been manufactured and sent to the office. When finished, though, you'll find dental impressions were and are nothing to worry about. Their purpose is to create an exact mold of the tooth or teeth that need to be restored, creating healthier teeth, less pain and a repaired smile.

Don’t forget about your gums

Healthy gums are important for the success of bridges and crowns. Try one of our toothpastes created to help keep gums healthy.